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Anjani Trivedi

Beijing May Score Its Biggest 5G Win at Home

Even if the U.S. blunts Huawei overseas, China’s domestic 5G network could give it a lock on the factories of the future.

The East Is Red...and 5G! 

The East Is Red...and 5G! 

Photographer: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

An hour west of Shanghai, in Nanjing, now one of China’s largest industrial centers for advanced manufacturing, an automated assembly line in a retooled factory churns out 5G radio technology every day of the year but one: Chinese New Year. Self-piloting carts whir racks of components across the factory floor. Artificial intelligence spots faults quicker than humans, using cellular technology to monitor, among other things, about 1,000 high-precision smart screwdrivers and squads of robotic arms that twirl in formation.

Enabling this 21st-century ballet are hundreds of base stations — radio equipment that provides wireless connectivity — around Nanjing, where smart streetlights surround the local temple, and one of the metro lines boasts full 5G coverage. Indeed, as Sweden’s Ericsson AB has said, it modernized its Nanjing factory “in preparation for the introduction and rapid deployments of 5G in China.”